Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #4: Honoring Ingmar Bergman

by Lisa Nesselson

Orson Welles never got an Oscar but most people think he was a mighty fine filmmaker. There are many such examples of excellent performers and behind-the-scenes creative types being passed over for the kind of recognition that comes in metal or crystal or diploma form. (If it's any consolation, Welles shared the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1952 for "Othello.")

Acknowledging that an oversight might very well have transpired over the decades that Cannes juries have been dispensing awards, the Festival decided to honor a Palme des Palmes' d'Or. All of those Palme d'Or recepients still living would be given carte blanche to nominate a one-time special Palme to be given to a great film director who had never won the top award at Cannes. Ingmar Bergman won by a substantial margin.

Bergman got the Special Jury Prize in 1957 for "The Seventh Seal" (shared with Wadja for "Kanal") and the Best Director award in 1958 for "Brink of Life" (which also nabbed a four-way Best Actress award for his leading ladies). Close but no bananna.

Then again, there's always the outlying possibility that Bergman isn't all that great a director. For a stab at bolstering this theory, one need only turn to the handy volume "The Critics Were Wrong" by Ardis Sillick ad Michael McCormick. (The British edition of this entertaining book, subheaded: 'Misguided Movie Reviews and Film Criticism Gone Awry" substitutes the excellent title "Some Like It Not." But I digress.)

The book tells us that one Helen Weldon Kuhn, writing in 'Films in Review' for November 1960 had this to say about Bergman's "The Virgin Spring," an Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film:

"...he could make great films. Instead, he thinks anything he hurries to the screen will be accepted. This lack of professional integrity is causing the discerning to withdraw their good will. Once they do so completely, the vogue-chasers will forsake Bergman, and so, thereafter, will the public he has never taken the trouble to serve-by making a FINISHED film."

The blurb writer who assessed "The Virgin Spring" for "Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide" assigns the picture three stars (out of four), concluding: "Remade as - or more appropriately, ripped off by- LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT." (Wes Craven did the "ripping" in 1972.)

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